Reading Sugar about new players and Jester about luring people to New Eden made me think a lot about EVE New Player experience and lead to the simple, but not at all straight-forward result: the standard MMO new player experience design is completely useless for EVE Online.
What is this “standard new player experience”? It can be summarized as “have fun now, learn the game later”. The age of tutorials (besides basic controls) is over. You don’t want to bore the player. You don’t want to make him face overwhelming complexity. You want to give him a good first impression. You want him to giggle, smile or “whoa!” in the first hour.
World of Warcraft did this almost perfectly. You absolutely don’t need to know anything about the game or be any good at it to start. After the intro cinematics you are sent out with your basic attack and a spell to kill wolves and you just can’t fail in this task. You get a story, rewards, and hey, you are a fearsome orc in a fantasy world! Later, as you level up, you are learning mechanics at your own will. If you don’t want to learn, no problem. Sure, a hunter using no glyphs, no talents and spellcaster gear won’t level as fast as someone who has a clue, but who cares if you are having fun?!
In EVE, you must have some game knowledge and must makes some effort, or instead of fun, you get frustrating losses. The newbie in the story of Sugar – like in most games – refused to read the mission text, so didn’t know that the next mission is suicidal, so loaded everything he had into the ship and lost it all. A guy who carelessly click over the “you are about to enter lowsec, CONCORD can’t protect you there”, is podded when the gatecloak expires on the other side. If he accepts a random “guild inv”, like he does in any other game, he is dead. If he accepts a “fun friendly fight” in the form of duel request, he is dead. If he shoots at that yellow ship with “wanted” written on it, he is dead. If he accepts a “friendly advice” from a player to set that little green dot to yellow or red, he is dead. In EVE “dead” means that you won’t get your stuff back. If he accepts the business offer of a stranger, or a friendly help to double his newbie ISK, he lost it.
These are obvious knowledge to us. But it’s only obvious because we learned it. A new player doesn’t know them. It’s not unique to be clueless in a game. I’m sure most WoW newbies slaying wolves have no clue what are the preferred stats for their class. But it doesn’t affect their ability to have fun. In EVE, it very much does. If you are clueless in EVE, you are killed, robbed, scammed. In order to enjoy the game, you must have a minimal level of knowledge (assuming you aren’t with veteran friends who just replace your losses).
What I’d like to stress is that being a bit bored at the start is better than being frustrated. A player who left because of boredom won’t spew hate on the game. The one who liked it very much and then “suddenly gankers”, will make sure that no one in his circle of friends will ever try out EVE. For this reason the EVE new player experience must enforce learning, even at the expense of fun.
How could it happen? When a new account is created, it is in “newbie mode”. You can get out of newbie mode three ways: completing the lengthy tutorial, pressing “I’m an alt” or “I want a mentor”. The “I’m an alt” gives you instructions to log in the account management on both accounts to confirm.
Newbie mode means that you cannot:
- Initiate any form of PvP. You can’t set your safety to yellow/red, you can’t shoot a suspects/criminals, can’t duel, join militia. PvP as a newbie is being griefed.
- Leave highsec, for obvious reasons.
- Sell PLEX. If you have one, you can only use it for extending your subscription, to prevent the noob from spending real money on stuff he’ll lose hilariously in a few minutes.
- Undock if the value of your ship, fitting and cargo is over 50M, because it will die to suicide gankers or rats.
- Join a corporation. The ones recruiting a newbie who refused mentoring are awoxers.
- Use the send money, direct trade, contract features, to prevent scams.
- Remap your attributes, because you’d just waste them.
The unremovable help window keeps the newbie on rails, always telling where can he continue his journey. It disappears – along with the newbie mode – if the newbie completes all tutorials and got more than 1M SP. Please note that this is unrelated to what the tutorials are. Of course the tutorials themselves need improvement, but my point is that an EVE newbie who refuses to take a mentor must do them, regardless of their quality, or he is dead, scammed and ragequit.
Yes, EVE would lose some newbies who refuse to accept that they need a mentor or a newbie mode instead of “joining the fun”. But EVE loses much-much more newbies because he cluelessly did something he didn’t mean to and lost big portion of his wealth.
Now about the core feature, the mentor system. I’d like to stress is that the “newbie mode” isn’t the preferred path, it must be made clear that the newbie should get a mentor instead. The newbie can select one of four interest fields, and the mentors offer their services in these fields. They also select main playing hours. Of course not every Tom, Dick and Harriette can be a mentor. The fields and qualification limits:
- Small-gang PvP: have at least 100 kills with less than 20 people on them.
- Large-fleet PvP: have at least 1000 kills with more than 50 people on them.
- NPC killing PvE: security status higher than 4
- Industrial PvE: have 10B in your wallet
The server pairs the mentors and newbies randomly. There is no way to cherry-pick, to prevent alt-mentoring and griefing. The mentor must have a PLEX in the “redeem items”, which becomes locked. If the mentored newbie quits in 3 months, he loses it. If the newbie remains subscribed for 3 months, the mentor gets 2 PLEXes back. The newbie must pay for at least one month too, to prevent trial account spamming griefers hurt mentors. This is to make sure that you only mentor if you will really guide instead of “welcome to EVE, it’s fun, good luck!”